overnights

The Sinner Recap: Foster Scare

The Sinner

Part VI
Season 2 Episode 6
Editor’s Rating *****

The Sinner

Part VI
Season 2 Episode 6
Editor’s Rating *****
Photo: USA Network/Peter Kramer/USA Network

The goal of so much deep therapeutic work is to offer some kind of solace to the younger you, the child who might have endured trauma or ongoing hardship without a sophisticated coping system in place. The idea that you can literally bridge that divide and physically connect with those scared, unresolved parts of you, offering the kind of reassuring touch or gentle words that might have been absent, is a fantasy. It’s not real. Harry should know that, but he can’t help extending a hand to Julian while dissuading him from the onus of guilt. The gesture had to have felt like he was absolving his own teenage self, the kid who lit his mother’s home ablaze to manifest his inner rage. But what Harry might have missed was that Julian’s nightmarish hooded menace was quite real, even if occasionally surfacing via his subconscious as a memory-cum-premonition.

Or not. It could well be Vera, breaking and entering into his foster home bedroom at 4:30 a.m., cloaked as the one figure she knows will paralyze Julian with fear long enough to bust him loose. Barring that, the presumed creeper is Lionel, acting a bit more cavalierly after his Niagara Falls rendezvous was thwarted. This, though, would presuppose that Vera didn’t poison the Beacon with jimsonweed tea circa 2005, and that — as she swears to Harry — Mosswood’s leader simply left town one fine day, as if going to purchase the proverbial pack of smokes, never to return (so much for telling him “everything”).

And none of this even grazes the goings-on surrounding an increasingly suspect Jack, sicko Glenn, or that damned older man with the white ponytail who showed up at Adam and Bess’s motel. In the interest of compartmentalizing, let’s take a closer look at the murders of Ms. McTeer and Mr. Lowry, the latter of whom we’ve learned precious little about. A serviceable theory would hypothesize that Adam and Bess — Mosswood originalists in their belief — were delivering Julian to Lionel for his long-awaited ritual sacrifice, but Vera made sure the commune car they borrowed would crap out. At that point, she dispatched Ponytail Man to intervene (possibly with an assist from the motel manager, who could certainly be an acolyte) and pass along instructions for Julian to 86 his chaperones. This scenario would make Julian a sitting duck for the cops, and is thus full of holes, so let’s call it a given that Motel Manager and Ponytail Man’s roles in all this are flexible, among other moving parts that led to an imperfect crime.

Then there’s the matter of Marin, whose body was found inside a car at the bottom of Purple Lake, aka Stillwater Reservoir, decomposed down to all but hair and bone. Marin was in a bad way after a difficult birth to Julian and some significant postpartum issues, compounded by Vera’s attachment to the baby and Lionel’s insistence on isolating Julian from them both so that he’s ripe for slaughter. “Part VI” spends more time illustrating what happened to Marin than how it all made her feel, so her motives and machinations are still elusive, and that Sinner mystery continues to puzzle. So, sure, she could have driven herself to a watery grave or steered erratically to her death while panicking to escape Mosswood. She also might have been run off the road by Glenn and his posse, or finally gotten that friendly ride home from Jack, only to come across a side of him far more sinister.

Could Jack be the Satan that Carmen Bell’s been hearing from on the phone? Has he been the one instructing Glenn to scar Mosswood women with cigarette burns, branding them as part of horrific sexual assaults sanctified as groundbreaking session work? He’s been dutifully distracting Heather from pursuing this case in earnest, a fact she’s now alert to, no different than Vera snapping back to self-possession after holding Julian to her skin. For Heather, laying eyes on Marin’s corpse was what woke her up, causing her to wonder more urgently what’s gone on all these years while she’s been asleep. (Also, about time she: (a) took away his ranch dressing and (b) refused to eat one of his damn sandwiches.)

Whether a guy like Glenn was recruited/lured to Mosswood by the promise of a place where he could let his freak flag fly, or a few introductory sessions with Lionel in exchange for his family’s land uncorked something deep within him, he’s clearly taken those nasty habits outside the commune walls. And however Glenn and others became ostracized from their sadistic paradise (the answer would appear to be Vera), odds are Lionel’s (or whomever was at the helm’s) plan didn’t stop at evolving a new kind of inhumanity inside Mosswood’s grounds. He wanted it to spread, and he — or whoever is carrying on his work — remains convinced that Julian is key to society’s “new man” coming out of hiding and worshipping and sacrificing with religious freedom. (The sidebar of D.A. Hutchinson as a stand-in for the self-interested bureaucrat who, in his passivity, becomes complicit in clearing a path for dangerous ideologues is noted if clichéd.)

It’s now been 43 years in Sinner time since Harry lost his mother (and, per that newspaper clipping, half a century or so since the house fire), who withered away in an institution like Carmen Bell is bound to do. It’s been 15 years since Heather’s mom was buried, 13 since Julian was born, 16 since Dr. Poole and others compelled D.A. Hutchinson to squash Carmen’s case, and roughly 85 years since the Fisher family bought that land with that big rock and the Cobble Stone opened its doors. That’s a long time for closure, but as Lionel would say in his own decidedly not-comforting way, “It won’t be much longer now.”

Apart From All That

• Okay, Lionel, we get it: You’re a baby whisperer and an Old Testament freak.

• Don’t forget about guilty-seeming Chief Lidell.

• Vic better not be Ponytail Man.

• Did Julian’s drawings resemble the cigarette-burn patterns?

• Oh, hey there Cora!

• Re: hooded figure, oftentimes the most obvious answer is it. But it’s still fun to think it’s Vera. Or Jack. Or Ponytail Man.

• Season two: heading toward its finish more or less confoundingly than season one?

The Sinner Recap: Foster Scare